Situación grave de abogados en Colombia

We have today sent this letter to the Colombian president, Ivan Duque. AbogadosColombiaCarta2020-05-28

Estimado Sr. Presidente,

Es un placer saludarle en nombre de Riksdagen, Parlamento Sueco, con el objeto de expresarle nuestra preocupación por la presunta realización de seguimientos ilegales al abogado Sebastián Escobar del Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo – CCAJAR y otras organizaciones representantes de víctimas.

Según las informaciones publicadas por la Revista Semana el pasado 1 de mayo y recogidas por otros medios nacionales e internacionales así como por organismos internacionales, miembros de la Fuerza Pública habrían utilizado herramientas informáticas destinadas a la persecución e investigación del delito, contra un total de 130 personas de diferentes sectores, sin mediar investigación alguna referida a procesos judiciales regulares. Lo anterior confirmaría que las labores de inteligencia habrían sido puestas al servicio no de la persecución de delitos sino de las personas que trabajan desde la legalidad por el respeto y la garantía de los derechos humanos. Lastimosamente se repetirían hechos análogos acontecidos a manos del extinto Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad y otros aparatos, sin que hasta la fecha se hayan podido identificar sus máximos responsables ni erradicar definitivamente estas presuntas prácticas irregulares.

En este sentido preocupan actuaciones como la protagonizada por la Magistrada de la Corte Suprema de Justicia Cristina Lombana quien habría conocido en el contexto de otro proceso los 130 casos referidos. Ello, a raíz de una inspección y allanamiento ordenada el 18 de diciembre de 2019 en las instalaciones del Batallón de Ciber Inteligencia (Bacib) y al Batallón de Contrainteligencia de seguridad (Bacsi). Solo casi cinco meses más tarde, hasta el 4 de mayo de 2020, la Magistrada Lombana procedió a hacer una compulsa de copias a la Procuraduría y a la Fiscalía lo que evidenciaría que conocía los hechos desde al menos, la fecha citada. Esto incrementa los temores de que exista un cierto grado de connivencia y corrupción por parte de los órganos de administración de justicia que contribuya por acción u omisión a frustrar las investigaciones penales. El pasado 18 de mayo, la Magistrada se declaró impedida con respecto al caso de espionaje militar.

Frente a estas informaciones queremos recordar que la independencia de los abogados y el libre ejercicio de la abogacía es uno de los principales barómetros de la democracia y de la efectividad del Estado de Derecho. Ello, de conformidad con lo dispuesto en los Principios de Naciones Unidas para La Función de los Abogados y en particular los Principios 16 y 17. [1]

El compromiso que suscribimos así con las personas y colectivos que frecuentemente operan a nivel de sociedad civil lo consideramos vital para contribuir al fortalecimiento del Estado de Derecho. Tanto para garantizar que los ciudadanos y ciudadanas puedan ejercer los derechos que les corresponde en calidad de titulares de los mismos como requerir de las autoridades competentes que cumplan con las obligaciones derivadas de los compromisos suscritos a nivel nacional, regional e internacional.

El abogado Sebastián Escobar y el Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo-Ccajar al que pertenece son un ejemplo paradigmático cuya labor admiramos y respetamos. Esta organización se ha convertido en una referencia por el valioso papel desempeñado desde hace décadas para promover el cumplimiento de la legalidad y los derechos individuales y colectivos de los grupos de población más vulnerables.

Muy lamentablemente, las actividades de ciberinteligencia ilegal de las que reporta la revista Semana serían sólo una parte de la inteligencia ilegal realizada en contra de abogados y personas defensoras de derechos humanos:

  • El abogado Germán Romero de la organización DH Colombia, había denunciado en octubre de 2019 robos de información, seguimientos, llamadas y una amenaza directa por parte de una persona desconocida. Estos hechos sucedieron en el marco de múltiples investigaciones que el abogado adelanta contra altos mandos de las Fuerzas Militares, por su posible responsabilidad en ejecuciones extrajudiciales y desapariciones forzadas.
  • En febrero de 2020, dos otras organizaciones defensoras de derechos humanos alertaron de haber sido objetos de vigilancia ilegal mediante seguimientos de personas y drones que sobrevolaron sus instalaciones. Una de ellas fue la Comisión de Justicia y Paz, que representa a víctimas en el Sistema Integral de Verdad, Justicia, Reparación y Garantías de No repetición. Su Director, Danilo Rueda, ha sido declarado objetivo dentro de un plan de asesinato. Asimismo, existirían informaciones fidedignas sobre operaciones de inteligencia ilegal en contra del anterior director de JyP, Padre Alberto Franco y sobre las lideresas comunitarias y empeñada en la implementación del Acuerdo de Paz, Jani Silva y Luz Marina Cuchumbe. El abogado Daniel Prado, asociado de la Comisión, ha denunciado la presencia de un dron con capacidad de grabación de video y sonido caído en el patio de su residencia; además se ha enfrentado a una campaña de amenazas e intimidaciones siendo el representante de las víctimas, en el proceso penal contra el grupo paramilitar conocido como ”Los 12 Apóstoles”.
  • La Corporación Jurídica Libertad denunció públicamente actividades de vigilancia ilegal y hostigamientos el pasado 18 de febrero, cuando tres hombres de civil llegaron a la sede de la organización, tomando fotografías e interrogando el vigilante para obtener información de los abogados/as de derechos humanos: se verificó que la moto en la que se movilizaban los hombres era de propiedad del Ministerio de Defensa.

Por todo lo anterior, nos gustaría solicitar respetuosamente del Gobierno de la República de Colombia y la Jefatura de Estado que usted ostenta, la consideración de las peticiones detallas a continuación:

  1. Adoptar las medidas necesarias para que cese de forma inmediata toda labor de espionaje y vigilancia ilegal en contra del Colectivo José Alvear Restrepo y el conjunto de personas y organizaciones afectadas;
  2. Reconocer públicamente la labor desarrollada por las personas y colectivos que como los mencionados contribuyen de manera decisiva y en el marco de la legalidad a construir una sociedad más justa y democrática;
  3. Adoptar medidas de prevención y protección efectivas ajustadas a las necesidades de las personas afectadas;
  4. Velar porque se entregue a la justicia y a las autoridades correspondientes toda la información probatoria relevante para el esclarecimiento de los hechos, la identificación de los responsables y la respectiva judicialización y sanción, sin que pueda seguir dándose prácticas de encubrimiento, persecución, amenazas y presión contra los miembros del Ejército Nacional que en calidad de testigos directos de los hechos han rendido sus declaraciones ante la justicia.
  5. Impulsar el diseño de una política orientada al desmantelamiento de las estructuras que han dado lugar a los hechos denunciados y ofrezca garantías de no repetición.
  6. Promover espacios de diálogo con los actores de la sociedad civil sobre los límites a la labor de inteligencia en una democracia, la depuración de estos organismos, así como la desclasificación, corrección y entrega de toda información adquirida ilegal o ilegítimamente contra personas y organizaciones defensoras de derechos humanos.
  7. Abrir el espacio para que el Estado colombiano cuente con una Comisión de expertos y expertas internacionales que puedan colaborar independiente y genuinamente para avanzar en la lucha contra la impunidad fomentando reales garantías de no repetición.

Jens Holm, diputado, Riksdagen, Parlamento Sueco
Håkan Svenneling, diputado, Riksdagen, Parlamento Sueco

[1]      Principios Básicos sobre la Función de los Abogados, adoptados en el Octavo Congreso de las Naciones Unidas sobre Prevención del Delito y Tratamiento del Delincuente, celebrado en La Habana (Cuba) del 27 de agosto al 27 de septiembre de 1990. Principio 16: “Los gobiernos garantizarán que los abogados a) puedan desempeñar todas sus funciones profesionales sin intimidaciones, obstáculos, acosos o interferencias indebidas (…)” Principio 17: “Cuando la seguridad de los abogados sea amenazada a raíz del ejercicio de sus funciones, recibirán de las autoridades protección adecuada.”

A crisis is also an opportunity

I am interviewed at the PR firm New Republic:

Can the crisis be a catalyst for changes in transport policy?
”Yes, a crisis is also an opportunity. One thing this crisis teaches us is how vulnerable we are to external conditions. This brings to the fore even more the importance of getting rid of fossil energy sources. I also believe that everyone has had the opportunity to reflect on their travel patterns. Which trips will be deemed necessary in the future? What can instead be done online and over the phone? With the Government now investing heavily, it is important that this also helps bring about the absolutely necessary climate transition. We must not make the same mistakes again. We therefore need a green reboot now that things will gradually return pretty much to normal.”

See the whole interview here.

Give the Nobel Peace Prize to Greta and FridaysForFuture

Today we have nominated Greta Thunberg and FridaysForFuture to the Nobel Peace Prize. Please find our motivation here: NobelnomineringGretaFfF2020-01-30 or below.

Stockholm 2020-01-30

To the Norwegian Nobel Committee:
Nobel Peace Prize to Greta Thunberg and FridaysForFuture
Greta Thunberg is a climate activist, and the main reason she deserves the Nobel Peace Prize is that despite her young age, she has worked hard to make politicians open their eyes to the climate crisis. FridaysForFuture is the movement that has been built up around Greta Thunberg. Without FridaysForFuture and Greta Thunberg the climate issue would not have been on the agenda to such an extent as it is today.

There is no other topic that is so important as solving the climate crisis, and what we need right now is to focus on how we can solve this crisis. The climate crisis will produce new conflicts and ultimately wars. Action for reducing our emissions and complying with the Paris Agreement is therefore also an act of making peace.

At the climate summit, COP25, in Madrid last December Greta said the following:

“Our leaders are not behaving as if we are in an emergency. In an emergency you change your behaviour. If there is a child standing in the middle of the road and cars are coming at full speed you don’t look away because it feels uncomfortable. You immediately run out and rescue that child.”

In few lines that encompasses Greta Thunberg´s clear and straightforward way of communication the climate urgency in which we live. Thunberg is 17 years old and despite the fact that she is still a child, she shows us that everyone can make a difference. It’s just a matter of courage and will power. Greta Thunberg and FridaysForFuture have been protesting outside parliaments and elsewhere every Friday over the globe. They have made the world open their eyes and see the reality and not just that, she showed us that every single one could make a difference. No matter how big the difference is, but everyone can do something.

A worldwide movement particularly of children and youth have now joined Greta Thunberg in the FridaysForFuture protests. The Global climate strike, Friday 29th September 2019, was the biggest manifestation for the climate ever, with more than 6000 events in 185 countries with more than 7 million participants. In many places the action day meant the biggest rally since the end of the World War II. Greta Thunberg and FridaysForFuture have built up the public momentum needed for adequate political action for solving the climate crisis.

For that they deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.

Jens Holm, MP riksdagen Sweden
Håkan Svenneling, MP riksdagen Sweden

Transport and Climate Crisis

I´m writing about the Climate Crisis and the need for a transformation of transport sector. Published by the Rosa Luxemburg Fundation. Please read below or here: TransformTransportHolm2019-12-12

Transport and Climate Crisis – Lessons for the Left
December 2019, Reflection Paper [1]
Accounting for almost one third of the EU’s total greenhouse emissions, the transport sector is the main contributor to today’s climate crisis. Moreover, carbon emissions are still booming despite both EU and national emission reduction targets. If business interests keep prevailing, we will have a huge increase in European transport-related emissions. The International Transport Forum predicts an increase of 100 percent in personal transport and 300 percent in goods by 2050. In this scenario the EU climate targets for 2030 and 2050 are in peril, in particular the already-too-modest goal of reducing transport-related emissions by 60 percent by 2050 (White Paper on Transport 2011). We all understand that continuous emissions of carbon dioxide are a threat to our existence. To rely only on the possibility of a technological shift in the fields of biofuels and electricity is a huge gamble. The Left needs a strategy towards fixing the transport problem shift with an eye towards social inclusion and zero emissions. Although such a strategy does not yet exist, the following list includes some ideas for discussion towards the development of such a strategy:

  1. Get rid of cheap fossil fuels

Today’s boom in the transport sector has been made possible by cheap fossil fuels. The aviation and shipping sector do not pay any environmental costs for the use of diesel, petrol and kerosene. As for road transports, there are mechanisms to internalize the environmental costs of fossil fuels in many European countries. This is good, but not enough. The Left must move beyond taxing externalities: the objective should be to get rid of fossil combustion engines altogether as soon as possible. We should welcome proposals on banning the sale of new fossil vehicles, such as the ones put forward in France, Sweden and Denmark, just to mention a few examples.

Nevertheless, taxing fossil fuels is an important measure until fossil fuel vehicles are banned altogether. However, as the example of the French gilets jaunes shows, it is important to have a fair tax design. Cap and dividend is a good principle in this respect. Could, for instance, a part of the revenues be used to subsidize marginalized areas, public transport, or even direct tax cuts and economical allowances for low-income persons? I am convinced that it is possible to simultaneously address both environmental problems and fairer wealth redistribution.

When it comes to aviation, the solution is simply to tax it as highly as possible. Some European countries (e.g. the UK, Germany and Sweden) have already imposed a tax on air flights. The Swedish tax was implemented last year, and since then both domestic and international flights decreased for the first time in decades. The aviation tax can therefore be considered a success. A tax on aviation is by definition a very fair tax, since high-income earners are the most frequent flyers. A progressive tax, such as the one proposed in the campaign A Free Ride (http://afreeride.org/), in which the price of tickets increases with the amount of flights that are carried out during a year, would be even fairer possibility. It is also possible to have a higher tax on business tickets, as seen in the UK. All this would reduce emissions, increase revenues to the state and have an even greater impact on fair economical distribution. Another simple solution is to tax aviation fuels. At the moment they are non-taxable due to the WWII-era ICAO Chicago Convention, which exempted fuels related to aviation from taxation. However, the convention dates back to 1944, long before the climate debate and Paris Agreement. The Left needs to push the EU and the ICAO to have such obsolete provisions scrapped altogether.

When it comes to the maritime sector, it is somewhat more complicated. Watercrafts stand for an increasing amount of the world’s emissions of greenhouse gases; however, this also because they are in charge of transporting the bulk part of the world’s export and import goods. More could be done in order to spur more local production to reduce cross-border transport, but trade will continue to exist in the future and therefore the shipping problem needs solutions. A simple one would be to switch from bunker oil to gas and from gas to electricity and hydrogen thereafter. Ports should also enforce much stricter environmental criteria for entry. Compliance with new regulations on Sulphur (SOx) and Nitrogen (NOx) will also lead to a total reduction of CO2 gases. In this regard, the IMO/Helcom zone of the Baltic Sea to limit SOx and NOx could stand as an inspiring example.

 

  1. Modal shift – from road to rail

If sea transport is a good environmental alternative to road, rail is even better. In all transport conferences, there is consensus around the necessity for transporting more goods on rail and less on road. However, the current goes the other way, and market-driven concerns for speed do not make it easier. In Europe almost 80 percent of the land freight transports are delivered by lorries and practically everything else is on rail (a small percentage goes on inland waterways). The trend is a continuous increase in road transport with the associated rising emissions. Even if freight transport goes down, transports will continue to take place. Therefore a modal shift from road to rail (and inner waterways, where possible) is a must. Is it possible to make this happen? Let’s take a look at Europe’s premier transit country, Switzerland. In the year 2001, the Swiss government imposed the Heavy Goods Vehicle Charge, a tax on heavy lorry transports (over 3.5 tons). The purpose was to reduce the steady influx of heavy transports and protect the environment. In spite of a total growing pressure from the transport sector, the Swiss tax has actually managed to reduce the total number of heavy transports through the country. At the time of the tax introduction, more than one million transalpine transports were carried out yearly. Last year the number was down to 800 000, with the clear political ambition to decrease it even more. At the same time the market share for goods transport on rail increased, especially when compared to the alpine neighbour Austria, where transport via motorways is predominant. Additionally, the revenues from the tax go to the Swiss railway fund for further development of the rail infrastructure. The Swiss example shows that it is indeed possible to stop the increase of road transport and thus to make the modal shift from road to rail.

 

  1. Solve transport crisis in our cities

A large chunk of our emissions stem from transport in cities. More and more people want to live in urban areas because of urbanization. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Such a concentration of people in a limited area is a breeding ground for rational solutions. Well-developed public transport systems are the main strategy in this context. However, most of today’s metro, tramway, and suburban train systems were built during the post-war era and are today in desperate need of improvement. How, then, to reduce urban road transports and at the same time mobilize funding for public transport and cycling? Should this acute political issue be left in the hands of our local decision-makers? Perhaps the Stockholm example with congestion charges could give some guidance? In Stockholm we made the biggest investment in our public transport system when, inspired by the London system (2003), we imposed the congestion charges 2006 (later congestion charges were turned into tax). The tax has been raised a couple of times since then, and generates today around 200 million euros yearly that goes to investments in the public transport system, in particular construction of 20 km of new metro lines with eleven new stations. The congestion tax managed to reduce urban car traffic in Stockholm for the first time and at the same time generated valuable revenues for public transport. The London system (and later the congestion tax in Gothenburg) follows the same pattern. From a class and gender perspective the congestion tax also favours structurally weaker groups, since wealthy men are over-represented in car transports and the working class and women are the ones that use public transport the most.

 

  1. Free public transport – from utopia to reality

Speaking of urban public transport: would it be possible to have a transport service that is both first-rate and free of charge? After a public referendum in 2013 which achieved a resounding ‘Yes’ as a result, the capital of Estonia, Tallinn, became the first European capital (with the exception of Thorshavn, capital of the Faroe Islands) to impose free public transport. The free fare led to an increase in public travel by about 10 per cent (more in poorer areas of the city) and a reduction in car traffic. The reform was financed partly with higher parking fees in the city centre. Now other municipalities in Estonia are discussing following Tallinn’s example and making public transport free of charge. The French city of Dunkirk (about 90 000 inhabitants) implemented free public transport in 2018, apparently with considerable success. In addition, it has come to my knowledge that the discussion about free public transport is vibrant in countries such as Luxemburg and Germany. Many smaller towns in Europe already have free public transport, either for all citizens or for certain groups (children, students, pensioners). All of these examples are subject for further study.

As good as it sounds, free public transport still looks like an utopia in most European cities. It simply costs a lot of money, and whatever funding there is needs to prioritize the enhancing of the service as such. Although this argument carries a lot of weight, it should be remembered that ticketing and control systems (such as the metro “head chopping” barriers in Paris and Stockholm) are not cheap either. In many regions of Europe, approximately 50 percent of funding for public transport comes from tax revenue (the other half stem from ticket fees and sometimes other external funding). When that 50 percent is used up, local politicians will often ask themselves, “if we are already funding 60 percent of the service, why not take the extra mile and fund 100 percent?” This was the case of Tallinn, where 65 percent of public transport funding already came from tax revenue. It simply became easier and more rational to fund it wholly through taxes, like other social services.

A task for the Left should be to find feasible ways of making free public transport possible. The fact that free public transport combines the goals of fair wealth distribution and environmental sustainability makes the struggle a worthy one for the Left.

 

  1. Who defines “mobility”?

Mobility, linked with smart, green, eco, micro, modern, is one of the most frequent buzzwords in the transport sector today. New modes of transport keep popping up like daisies in spring; car sharing, carpooling, autonomous vehicles, electric bicycles and electric scooters – all of these could become important for the reduction of congestion and emissions. Nonetheless, it should not be taken for granted that new transport modes will automatically solve our problems. Without a clear political vision, these new features could become more of a burden than part of the solution.

Take electrical scooters as an example. One year ago, the scooter company Voi established itself in Stockholm pretty much overnight by placing more than thousand rental e-scooters in the central parts of the city. Swedish Voi was soon followed by other companies such as American Lime, German Tier, Circ and others, all of them backed by international venture capital. At the moment there are eight different scooter companies with a couple of thousand scooters competing on the streets, making the Swedish capital look like a salvage experiment for gig mobility economy. It could be argued that for many Stockholmers like myself, e-scooters have gone from being a fun and maybe necessary innovation to a huge nuisance. Why did this happen? Instead of becoming an integrated part of the public transport system, today e-scooters are scattered all over the place: in the streets, on bicycle lanes, dumped in the lake and canals (with batteries which become a local environmental hazard), and the list goes on. Hospitals reports record high numbers of casualties due to accidents with e-scooters (this summer we experienced the first death toll from an e-scooter accident, in southern Helsingborg). All this has taken place in the very centre of our capital, where space is very limited. Considering the chaos they have caused, we can say that e-scooters are the clear opposite of mobility, becoming instead a big hurdle, in particular for disabled persons. The scooters are not regulated at all. Responsible local politicians have said that since this is a completely new phenomenon they have no right to interfere, and the Swedish national government says it is up to the municipalities to regulate. In my opinion this illustrates the drawback of 100 percent market-driven innovation lacking any form of political regulation (a more promising example is France’s recent regulation on “les trottinettes” as they are called).

 

  1. Self-driving cars – from problem to solution

The rental e-scooters may look as a marginal phenomenon, but soon we will have bigger challenges that can revolutionize our cities in a more profound way: self-driving cars. Several studies on autonomous vehicles have been carried out (e.g. OECD transport committee Urban Mobility System Upgrade, 2015), and they all point in the same direction: designed to complement public transport and not as a privately owned vehicle, self-driving cars can make the privately owned car superfluous. The OECD study concludes that 90 percent of cars will disappear when city dwellers realize they do not need a car of their own, and that in a matter of minutes they can just call for an autonomous one that will bring them where they want. Studies from the KTH University in Stockholm point in the same direction. In the doctoral dissertation of Pierre-Jean Rigoles (2014), every self-driving car replaces 14 manual privately owned cars, and only one out of 20 parking spots will be needed in a scenario where shared autonomous vehicles are the norm. Rigoles also states that shared self-driving cars are very compatible with vehicle electrification. Autonomous and electric cars are a “perfect match”, he writes. Today a very big part of the space in our cities is dedicated to cars, roads and parking spots (25 to 60 percent of the area, depending if we are in Europe or in North America). This is particularly inefficient when we consider that privately owned cars are not in use 96 percent of the time, and when they are in use, they carry an average of only 1.2 persons. When 9 out of 10 cars become obsolete, you do not have to be a city planner to realize that a large portion of this space can be replaced with housing, playgrounds, parks, public institutions, etc. What an extraordinary vision for our cities!

On the other hand, without this vision and lacking the correct strategy, we may find ourselves in asphalted Gotham cities that are overcrowded with self-driving fossil-fuel cars delivering pizzas and picking up children from training; that is to say, many more cars than today.

Our main challenge is to put an end to emissions from the transport sector. If we reduce emissions, it is very likely that we will also achieve a better local air quality, which will benefit all, but in particular the working class and many marginalized neighbourhoods that are more exposed to air pollution and traffic noise. Making the transport system fairer, both from a class and gender perspective must go hand-in-hand with the struggle for the environment. As I have showed in the examples above, almost every single measure towards reducing transport emissions will also benefit the working class, young people and women. This makes for a fantastic opportunity to merge green and red.

Whether or not this becomes a reality – that is up to the Left to decide.

Jens Holm, the Left Party, MP Swedish riksdag, chair of Transport committee

www.jensholm.se/english

Literature:

 

[1] This reflection paper is part of transform! Europe’s productive transformation project. Facilitator of the productive transformation working group: Roland Kulke, Brussels, kulke@transform-network.net

 

Why climate must trump the market

Below a presentation I hold in Copenhagen, spring this year.

Why climate must trump the market – A scrutiny of today´s neoliberal EU and the political solutions
Transform – Copenhagen 2019-03-19
Jens Holm, MP the Left Party, Sweden

Why are not the students at school? The question was asked all over the world as more than 1 million young students skipped school in 125 countries and took to the streets Friday 15/3. The climate strike initiator 16 years old Swedish Greta Thunberg gave an answer to the question: “Why should we educate ourselves to a future that might not exist? Therefore we are on strike for the climate – and we will continue.” And science is clear on the matter. Never in the latest 800 000 years there has been so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And 85 per cent of the CO2 concentration has been emitted after the second world war. That means that today´s climate crisis is not the result of a very long time geological process, but a result of the way of living during one or two generations after the Second World War. The decades up to now most parts of world has been dominated by a more and more aggressive capitalist industrialized process with exploitation of labour as well as nature as the common denominator.

According to the IPCC we have about 10 years to bend the curve of constantly increasing emissions. More political action is needed but one forgotten aspect of it is that actual legislation is not updated to be in line with what a radical climate transition requires. With my experience as a former member of the European Parliament and eight years in the Swedish Committee of European Affairs in the Swedish Parliament it occurs to me that that the EU treaties and core legislation are clearly biased towards marked. Let me share you some examples. I will touch upon the internal market, State Aid legislation and the EU international trade agreements.

Ever since the first EU (ECC) treaty the Coal and Steel union 1951, via Maastricht 1993 and to today´s Lisbon treaty the fulfilment of the internal market has been one of the core objectives. How do you create a perfect market? Well, you eliminate so called trade distortions. But trade distortions/barriers can be many things; taxes, fees, silly bureaucracy, but also national legislation in order to protect workers, public health and environment. And speaking of the latter there are many examples of member states that have been forced to sacrifice progressive legislation in order to comply with the EU internal market requisites. Denmark used to have an almost perfect system for recollecting bottles from beer and sweet drinks. Pretty much all bottles were part of the national recycling system. But after complaints from German breweries Denmark needed to abolish this successful system at the beginning of 2000´s (that banned disposable cans – with dåesforbudet – for beers and sweet drinks) and permit import of beers in cans from Germany and other countries. The free movement of goods were more important that protecting a successful national recollection system. Before the entrance of the European Union Sweden had bans on several chemicals and additives in food. Most common is our ban on azo colorants (bright colorants usually in sweets and drinks which could cause severe allergic reactions on sensitive persons). Sweden was forced to skip that and many other bans. The free movement of goods was considered more important and our legislation on public health. If the EU Commission do not manage to correct a member state to adopt to the market rules cases usually end up in the European Court of Justice (ECJ). When I was a member of the European Parliament I looked in to the cases were environmental legislation had clashed the EU internal market. I got the information that between 2003-2008 none less than 19 cases had been ruled by the ECJ and in all those 19 cases the court had judged the benefit of the market, at cost of the environment. 19-0 to the market! The then (ex-social democratic) German commissioner Günter Verheugen answered me simply: “In all of the 19 cases the Court confirmed that public health or environmental justifications were not sufficient to inhibit the free movement of goods.”

The EU State Aid legislation is fundamental in order to protect the internal market and for that is protected in the Lisbon Treaty in the article 107-109. The articles states that state support is banned as the default position. If a member state would like to take measures financially in order to e.g spur renewable energy, create new public enterprises or make other crucial public investments pre notification and latter permission from the EU commission is needed. In Sweden we have experienced serious difficulties with promoting biogas and other renewable energy sources since the EU stats that all energy should be taxed the same and special support is not legal. At the moment the government managed – after lot of struggle with Brussels – to gain temporarily acceptance for a lower taxation for renewable fuels such as biogas, but it is only temporarily and will expire soon. In the state aid rules some exemptions are allowed, but climate action or environmental protection are not valid grounds for exemptions from the ban on state support. Being a socialist this is extremely problematic. I see the state – and the public sector as a whole – as perhaps the main movers when it comes to climate transition. To ban that is to make it impossible to use one of the most efficient tools to transform society.

One could ask, are there not examples where environment has trumped market, where member states have been granted more stringent positions in spite of marked harmonization? Yes, there are some. But they are exeptions that prove the rule. And although there can be some rooms for manoeuvre a big problem is the uncertainty. As legislators we need to have a clear picture of the conditions. Uncertainties makes us reluctant to even consider to usually long process of legislative action (with a public investigation, public consultation, committee work, and vote in chamber). And this is in times when we need more political action, not less. Then we can not have uncertainties that jeopardizes the momentum of action.

It doesn´t stop within the European Union, when it comes to Free Trade Agreement I´d say that the EU is the most market aggressive part in the world. I do not have a problem with getting rid of trade barriers when it comes to non-needed red tape, some tariffs or taxes. But the problems start, as well inside the EU, when the non-tariff barriers are addressed, in other words when legislation is questioned. Once again is the space for progressive policy making in danger. Agreements such as CETA with Canada, TTIP as it was proposed with the US and the FTA with Singapore have the same features; regulatory cooperation in order to streamline new policy making in favor of trade, deregulation as default and investor protection (ISDS). All components are extremely controversial and shrinks de policy space for progressive legislative action. The experience of other agreements with ISDS is terrifying. The NAFTA treaty has been in operation since 1994 and has a clause for investor protection. That has made Canada the most sued industrialized country in the world, usually US companies (or Canadians with address in the US) that sue the Canadians for environmental protection. The most infamous case is probably the Lone Pine ISDS suit for the Quebec state ban on fracking. Since 1994 Canada has now been sued 35 times with ISDS as base. I´m not proud to mention that the most well known European ISDS-case probably is the Swedish Vattenfall double investment process against the German government. First 2009 against the local stringent legislation against the Moorburg coal power plant were the Swedish state owned energy giant made the Germans loosen up the environmental legislation (!) and the second not yet settled were Vattenfall demands ludicrously 4,5 billion euro for the German decision to phase out nuclear power. Worth to mention is that we ISDS processes are not carried out in the usual national courts, but at extra judicial litigation tribunals. In the Vattenfall vs Germany-case the World Bank tribunal ICSID is the place to settle the dispute, not a public court in Germany or Sweden. In some countries, Sweden is one, the investor vs state is settled at tribunals hosted at Chambers of Commerce. (In Sweden at the Arbitration Institute at the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, SCC. The SCC had up to recently as the CEO a well known politician from the Swedish conservative party, Moderaterna. The Arbitration Institute at SCC boast with their policy of total “confidentiality”; in effect noting is public. That has made them the second most used arena for investors to sue states after ICSID in Washington). I know all this might sound as a fringe left conspiracy; but it is not.

And according to the United Nations trade body UNCTAD the number of ISDS cases are on increase. Since the start a couple of decades ago some 855 cases were investors sue state have been documented up to 2018, with 70 cases only in 2015 as a record year (and 65 in 2017). In 60 per cent of the ISDS-cases that were decided on the merits the investor has won. Many of the cases deals with environmental matters were corporations challenge national action in this area. That shows clearly that the investors has a lot to win in taking states to investor tribunals, but nature and progressive legislation is the big looser.

To call CETA, TTIP and other Free Trade Agreements “free trade agreements” is in other words misleading since the purpose is to encompass most policy areas and make those trade friendly (nota bene; the CETA treaty is a “comprehensive” agreement as the name says and TTIP is both trade and “investment” agreement, just as two clear examples). And as mentioned before what is good for trade is not always the best for climate action.

When I have debated this issues even people far out on the liberal spectrum of politics agree that today´s investment regime is giving corporations all rights and no duties and that this is not about free trade but protect corporations both from competition as well as national legislation. And from a climate change perspective it is absolutely crucial that this must change. Corporations should no longer trump climate change action, to paraphrase Naomi Klein. Countries like Indonesia, India and Brazil (before Bolsonaro) have adopted trade strategies were investor protection no longer is part of the game. That goes also for Australia and New Zeeland that do not want to have another Philip Morris case to deal with (Philip Morris sued Australia 2012 in an investment tribunal for legislating upon plain packages). The NAFTA has recently been revised and it´s interesting that the ISDS component has been lifted out between the USA and Canada, but not with Mexico. This shows that investment protection is controversial indeed and if the ISDS can be lifted out in NAFTA it can be erased all over (in Mexico for a start). The European Commission has – after a judgement in ECJ – decided that all intra-EU-ISDS agreements should be scrapped (and that includes too the International Energy Charter that Swedish Vattenfall used twice against Germany). So the timing is good for the Left and environmental movement to call for a new trade regime without corporate investment protection.

To sum up. In the shorter perspective the Left should:
• Challenge the market fundamentalism in the EU treaties and legislation. Member states should always be permitted to legislate for higher ambitions than the EU on environmental and public health grounds.
• Challenge CETA, JEFTA, TTIP and other neo-liberal treaties and struggle for a fairer trade without special corporate protection.
• Climate policies in line with Paris is anti-capitalist per se. That could be:
– More ambitious targets
– Restrictions on industries
– Ban fossil fuels
– Phase out environmental harmful subsidies
– Restrict transport (challenge just-in time ideology)
– Train cooperation – not competition
– Restriction on plastic and other materials or commodities
• The European Elections in May could be a good start for a more coordinated red-green movement around this.

Jens Holm

Jens Holm is also author of the book “Om inte vi, vem? Politiken som räddar klimatet och förändrar vänstern” (Sjösala, 2017)
In English: If not us, who? Politics that saves the climate and change the left. The book is only available in Swedish.

Create a UN parliamentary assembly

I write together with many other MPs about establishing a permanent parliamentary assembly at the United Nations. First step towards a world parliament? Read our call in the Guardian or below.

Call to action on the creation of a UN parliamentary assembly
The Guardian 6/3-19
The UN, the multilateral order and democracy are under attack. Business as usual and lofty rhetoric are not sufficient to counter this threat. Despite many warnings and recommendations, not much has been done to prepare the UN for this challenge. The time for complacency and complaints is over. Now courageous leadership is needed.

The panel of eminent persons on UN-civil society relations warned almost 15 years ago that the UN must do more to strengthen global governance and tackle democratic deficits. The panel stressed that more systematic engagement of parliamentarians, national parliaments and local authorities in the UN would strengthen global governance, confront democratic deficits in intergovernmental affairs, buttress representational democracy and connect the UN better with global opinion. Current arrangements are not adequate.

When the international campaign for a UN parliamentary assembly (UNPA) was launched 11 years ago, the campaign’s patron, the late former UN secretary general Boutros Boutros-Ghali said we need to promote the democratisation of globalisation, before globalisation destroys the foundations of democracy.

It is with great concern that we are now witnessing how this development is unfolding. The establishment of a parliamentary assembly at the UN has become an indispensable step to achieve democratic control of globalisation.

We, the undersigning members of parliament, affirm our commitment to the goal of creating a UNPA in order to strengthen the democratic representation of the world’s citizens in global affairs and the UN’s decision-making.

We invite our fellow MPs from across the world who are democratically elected to join our parliamentary group for a UNPA in order to strengthen and coordinate our efforts. Together we can help build the political momentum and pressure that is needed to achieve our goal.

We believe the 75th anniversary of the UN in 2020 must be used as an opportunity to take stock and initiate far-reaching reforms, including the establishment of a UNPA.

We call on the UN secretary general, the president of the general assembly, the heads of states and governments and their foreign ministers as well as the representatives of UN member states in New York to initiate and support necessary steps in preparation of a meaningful UN reform summit in 2020 and towards the creation of a UNPA.

Alban Bagbin Member of parliament, Ghana
Tommy Broughan Member of parliament, Ireland
Ibrahim Bundu Former member of parliament, Sierra Leone
Omar De Marchena González Member of parliament, Dominican Republic
Jennifer De Temmerman Member of parliament, France
Sigmar Gabriel Member of parliament and former foreign minister, Germany
Nik Gugger Member of parliament, Switzerland
Jens Holm Member of parliament, Sweden
Andrej Hunko Member of parliament, Germany
Fernando Iglesias Member of parliament, Argentina
Daniel Jositsch Senator, Switzerland
Katja Keul Member of parliament, Germany
Jameleddine Khemakhem Former member of parliament, Tunisia
Jo Leinen Member of the European parliament, Germany
Fungayi Jessie Majome Former member of parliament, Zimbabwe
Yannis Maniatis Member of parliament and former minister of environment, energy and climate change, Greece
David Martin Member of the European parliament, Scotland
Smári McCarthy Member of parliament, Iceland
Stevens Mogkalapa Former member of parliament, South Africa
Florence Mutua Member of parliament, Kenya
Sunil B Pant Member of parliament, Nepal
Victor Perli Member of parliament, Germany
Lilia Puig Member of parliament, Argentina
Syed Naveed Qamar Member of parliament and former minister of defence, Pakistan
Achyuta Samanta Member of parliament, India
Axel Schäfer Member of parliament, Germany
Uwe Schummer Member of parliament, Germany
Stefan Schwartze Member of parliament, Germany
Ivone Soares Member of parliament, Mozambique
Mathias Stein Member of parliament, Germany
Nomsa Tarabella-Marchesi Member of parliament, South Africa
George Vella Former member of parliament and former foreign minister, Malta
Heinrich Volmink Former member of parliament, South Africa

Give the Peace Prize to Greta Thunberg

We have nominated the climate activist Greta Thunberg to the Nobel Peace Prize. Below our motivation.

To the Norwegian Nobel Committee:
Nobel Peace Prize to Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg is a climate activist, and the main reason she deserves the Nobel Peace Prize is that despite her young age, she has worked hard to make politicians open their eyes for the climate changes. There is no other topic that is such important as this, and what we need to right now is to focus on how we can solve this crisis. This is what she said when she arrived to the train station in Davos for the summit: “You have failed. In the future, if we don’t care about this, then no other issues are going to matter. I see the facts and I see what needs to be done and I decide to do it because if I didn’t, I would feel bad. When I grow up, I want to look back and say that I did what I could back then.” – Greta Thunberg.

Thunberg is 16 years old and despite the fact that she is still a child, she shows us that everyone can make a difference. It’s just a matter of courage and will power. Greta has been protesting outside the Swedish parliament with the sign “School Strike for the Climate”. She kept protesting every day, starting the 20th of August and stopped 9th of September when the Sweden went into their general election. She has made the world open their eyes and seeing the reality and not just that, she showed us that every single one could make a difference. No matter how big the difference is, but everyone can do something.

Greta Thunberg is now school striking every Friday and she is not stopping until Swedish politics is synced with The Paris Agreement. Thunberg has also been taking part of other demonstrations around the world. For example, she participated in the demonstration “Rise for Climate” outside the EU Parliament in Brussel, in a climate march in Helsingfors and in London.

Her initiative spread internationally under the hashtags #Fridaysforfuture and #ClimateStrike and in the end of September she had been talked about in TV media and by the Secretary General of FN António Guterres and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Håkan Svenneling, MP riksdagen Sweden
Jens Holm, MP riksdagen Sweden

Give the Peace Prize to Snowden

We nominate today whistleblower Edward Snowden to the Nobel Peace Prize. Please find our nomination here: EdwardSnowdenNomination2018-01-17 or below.

17 January 2018

To the Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee:

We write to nominate Edward Joseph Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Alfred Nobel intended that the Peace Prize would promote disarmament. Today, militaries around the world place ever greater emphasis on engagement in cyberspace, with its almost unlimited possibilities for spying, disruption, and destruction. No one has sounded the alarm more eloquently than Edward Snowden as regards military encroachment upon the world’s systems of electronic communication, and how such encroachment violates rights of privacy and threatens the continued existence of democracy.

Edward Snowden became one of history’s great whistleblowers when he revealed to leading journalists that the United States conducts all-encompassing mass surveillance around the world. In a conscientious and responsible manner, he exposed a system in which the phone, internet and other communications of individuals and whole nations are intercepted and permanently stored. Snowden insisted that it must be up to an informed global citizenry to decide whether they wish to live in a world in which they are constantly monitored by the United States military. With courage and careful judgment, he initiated a global debate about surveillance systems that operate beyond democratic control and the rule of law.

Snowden’s contribution is of particular importance today, when the American military’s capacities for interception and disruption in cyberspace are under the authority of a new commander-in-chief. President Donald J. Trump has shown little willingness to respect legal or ethical limits on the use of his power. Snowden, by contrast, is a person who perhaps more than anyone else alive symbolizes the importance of citizens who endeavor to place limits on the abuses of centralized military power. It is therefore a particularly suitable moment to award the Nobel Prize for Peace to Edward Snowden.

Yours truly,

Jens Holm, Member of Parliament, Sweden
Annika Lillemets, Member of Parliament, Sweden
Lotta Johnsson Fornarve, Member of Parliament, Sweden
Carl Schlyter, Member of Parliament, Sweden
Amineh Kakabaveh, Member of Parliament, Sweden
Valter Mutt, Member of Parliament, Sweden
Yasmine Posio, Member of Parliament, Sweden

Edward Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize

Today we nominate Mr Edward Snowden to the Nobel Peace Prize. Please read more here edwardsnowdennomination2017-01-30 or below.

To the Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee:

We write to nominate Edward Joseph Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Alfred Nobel intended that the Peace Prize would promote disarmament. Today, militaries around the world place ever greater emphasis on engagement in cyberspace, with its almost unlimited possibilities for spying, disruption, and destruction.  No one has sounded the alarm more eloquently than Edward Snowden as regards military encroachment upon the world’s systems of electronic communication, and how such encroachment violates rights of privacy and threatens the continued existence of democracy.

Edward Snowden became one of history’s great whistleblowers when he revealed to leading journalists that the United States conducts all-encompassing mass surveillance around the world. In a conscientious and responsible manner, he exposed a system in which the phone, internet and other communications of individuals and whole nations are intercepted and permanently stored. Snowden insisted that it must be up to an informed global citizenry to decide whether they wish to live in a world in which they are constantly monitored by the United States military. With courage and careful judgment, he initiated a global debate about surveillance systems that operate beyond democratic control and the rule of law. Many states are now trying to build up similar capacities as the US. Snowden´s work has permitted an open and democratic debate, globally, about the risks of cyberwarfare and global surveillance.

Snowden’s contribution is of particular importance today, when the American military’s capacities for interception and disruption in cyberspace are under the authority of a new commander-in-chief.  President Donald J. Trump has expressed little intention to respect legal or ethical limits on the use of his power.  It is therefore a particularly suitable moment to award the Nobel Prize for Peace to Edward Snowden.

Yours truly,

Jens Holm, Member of Parliament, Sweden

Annika Lillemets, Member of Parliament, Sweden

Wiwi-Anne Johansson, Member of Parliament, Sweden

Carl Schlyter, Member of Parliament, Sweden

Lotta Johnsson Fornarve, Member of Parliament, Sweden

Amineh Kakabaveh, Member of Parliament, Sweden

Valter Mutt, Member of Parliament, Sweden

Daniel Sestrajcic, Member of Parliament, Sweden

Annika Hirvonen Falk, Member of Parliament, Sweden

Hans Linde, Member of Parliament, Sweden

Pardon Snowden

The Parliamentary Human Rights Group of the Swedish Parliament ask Mr Barack Obama to pardon Mr Edward Snowden. It has now been sent to the White House with endorsement from a lot of MPs (me included of course). Please see our petition here: snowden_pardon or below.

About my conversation with Mr Snowden 2015 (text in Swedish).

The Parliamentary Human Rights Group
President of the United States of America
Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW,
Washington, DC 20500, USA
Stockholm, 12 December 2016

Mr President,
We, the undersigned members of the Swedish Parliament, would like to express our grave
concern regarding whistleblower Edward Snowden . He remains in Russia, unable to travel
or return to the United States. Were he to return home, he risks being tried for treason all for performing what your former Attorney General Eric Holder has called “a public service” and what we consider to be a global public service in defense of human rights.
When Mr Snowden revealed the extent of NSA global mass surveillance in 2013, he initiated a global debate about and a global movement to protect human rights in cyber space.

Even you, Mr President, have said that the global debate he sparked “will make us stronger.” We believe that he did so because he felt a moral obligation to reveal the illegal, systematic surveillance that many states have engaged in over the recent decade. We believe that Mr Snowden should be rewarded, not punished, for the sacrifice he made.
We therefore call on you, Mr President, to pardon Mr Snowden with the powers granted to
you by Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution.

Pending his pardon, we also urge US authorities to take the necessary measures to ensure that Mr Snowden’s passport is made valid again, so that he may travel and seek asylum in whatever country he wishes. Finally, we urge US authorities to strengthen the legal protections of whistleblowers, so that individuals who reveal government wrongdoing in the future are not penalized like Mr Snowden has been.

Yours sincerely,